There is a growing reluctance on the part of the private sector to provide healthcare for the public. Aetna announced this week that it is withdrawing its policy coverage in the healthcare exchange for the Affordable Healthcare Act (often referred to as Obamacare). It cites loss of revenue as the reason. This comes after the Republican bill which passed the House of Representatives last week which would eliminate coverage for millions and would go back to not covering pre-existing conditions in addition to placing a cap on coverage for cancer and many chronic illnesses.
All of this brings to light the economic burden that healthcare-for-profit places on employers as well as private citizens. Families can easily be pushed into bankruptcy and poverty by a single illness, and businesses face a competitive disadvantage on the global market when they have to factor in the cost of employee healthcare.
I posted the following essay in December of 2013 and I offer it again today because it is becoming ever more clear that the private sector is lacking in both motivation and in resources to provide the level of healthcare that all other industrialized modern countries currently provide for their citizens.
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It is often difficult to have a rational conversation these days about healthcare. People often speak in near-doctrinal terms when expressing their views on healthcare delivery. To question their views may bring on a plethora of accusations about one’s loyalty, faith, or patriotism. Here are seven brief reasons why I think that the provision of healthcare should not be left to the realm of employee benefits provided in the work place.
- Employers, especially large companies recently, have shown a reluctance to grant employee benefits by shifting to the use part time employees. Moreover, some companies now claim that they cannot do more job creation as long as healthcare coverage is required.
- Small companies (with fewer than 50 employees) are not required to offer health coverage at all.
- When healthcare is linked to employment, the unemployed have very limited healthcare options. I know a case in which a man became ill and was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, he had decent health insurance. Unfortunately, when he became too sick to work he was terminated from his job. With his termination from his employment, he lost healthcare coverage while he was in the midst of fighting his illness.
- In the global economy, U.S. companies are competing with companies in other countries where employee healthcare is not part of the employer's operating budget, making it more difficult for the U.S. to stay competitive. This makes it more likely that U.S. jobs will continue to dwindle, increasing unemployment rolls. (See The Wall Street Journal's break down of employer's benefit costs here)
- Employees’ income is often at the whim of employers and at risk in times of recession and corporate cost-cutting measures. At the very least, their healthcare should not be at the whim of employment circumstances.
- A healthy workforce is good for business, therefore good for the economy. It stands to reason that access to healthcare should be available to all potential workers as well as all current workers.
- Part of the government’s role is to foster an environment conducive to enterprise. Roadways, bridges, water supply, postal service, and education are a few examples of what the government does to foster a productive community. Providing access to healthcare is another important factor in insuring an adequate workforce and fostering a healthy environment for business and industry.
A Society that Works
There are three things that make for a society that works for all of the people: access to education, access to transportation, and access to healthcare. When a society can insure that its populace has access to education, transportation, and healthcare, there will be a higher level of productive participation on the part of its citizens. Industry and society can only benefit if there are better educated workers whose health needs are addressed and who have adequate transportation. Just as the private sector alone cannot be expected to build a society’s infrastructure, the private sector cannot be expected to adequately provide for the population’s healthcare needs. When we can learn to take the burden of healthcare off individuals and employers, as in a single-payer healthcare format where all are covered, then we can make better progress as a society.